Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Ways to Connect

courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art's third location, Kemper at the Crossroads, has closed. 

"An exhibition on display there was scheduled to close on Saturday, December 2," says Breeze Richardson, director of marketing and communications. "It felt like the most appropriate way to frame the closing, not installing a subsequent exhibition."

A sale of the property has been negotiated but not finalized, she adds.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

An entrepreneur is often defined as someone who designs, launches and runs a new business. A risk-taker, an individual who takes a big idea and brings it to life. 

On Tuesday, the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will recognize this year's honorees at the annual Entrepreneurship of the Year awards celebration. The Institute is housed at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

Courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Barbara O'Brien, who had served as executive director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, for more than five years, left the museum on November 3, according to a statement posted on the Kemper's website.

courtesy: Reference Recordings

The nominees for the 60th annual Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and the Kansas City Symphony performs on a record nominated in two categories.

The recording is Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies, and it features the Kansas City Symphony conducted by music director Michael Stern

City and arts leaders on Monday announced a new two-month city-wide arts festival called Open Spaces 2018: A Kansas City Arts Experience

"It’s 60 days of city-wide visual and performing arts debuts on a scale previously unseen in the city," Mayor Sly James said at a press conference at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery in the Crossroads Arts District.

James said he expects the event will foster the city's reputation as an arts destination. 

Cory Weaver / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Ten years ago, when Eric Rosen was angling for the job as artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, he pitched a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It was something he'd wanted to do for years while running a theater company in Chicago. Now he's finally bringing it to the stage.

"It's sort of a dream project in the sense of having a scope and a cast and a capacity to make something huge that we don't often get to do," Rosen says. 

courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Editor's note: After this story was published on November 14, 2017, the Nelson-Atkins Museum expressed concerns to KCUR about how the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation had reported financial information cited in the article. Based on additional information, this story was updated on December 11, 2017. 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Monday announced to employees that 23 staffers would be leaving, taking advantage of an "enhanced benefit option for retirement."

courtesy: Mulvane Art Museum

Artist Rita Blitt made a significant gift to the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas — a bulk of her life’s work, an estimated 2,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and film, as well as archival material. It represents preserving a legacy and a lifetime of giving. 

courtesy of the artist

The Johnson County, Kansas, Board of County Commissioners this week voted to reduce funding for proposed public art projects and for the county's public art program itself. 

In addition to public art programs in six cities, Johnson County has a One Percent for Art Program, established in 2006 to include art in major building projects.

Arts advocates, including Kansas Representative Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village, asked the commission to continue support for the program. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is among more than 60 cities around the world that earned "Creative City" distinction from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on October 31. Along with cities in Cabo Verde, Chile, Czechia, India, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Sweden, Kansas City was recognized as a music city. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Update: The Kansas City Council approved this proposal on Thursday, October 26.

The Kansas City Council’s finance and governance committee on Wednesday approved a proposal for the city manager to take a closer look at the assets and management of the American Jazz Museum. The ordinance also requests a $250,000 boost for the museum, which faces an estimated $1 million shortfall. 

Jeff Ridenour

The opera Hansel and Gretel is based on a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.

In this version of the story, the brother and sister are sent into the forest to gather strawberries. They get lost, encounter creatures like the Sandman and the Dew Fairy — and discover a mysterious gingerbread house where they're captured by a witch. 

A new University of Missouri-Kansas City production creates sets and costumes out of paper.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Council member Jermaine Reed introduced a proposal on Thursday to turn oversight of the American Jazz Museum over to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, including assets managed by American Jazz Museum, Inc., such as the Blue Room and the Gem Theater.

Council members Quinton Lucas and Scott Wagner co-sponsored the ordinance. It now goes to the Council’s finance and governance committee. 

Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's grassy lawn has hosted many things through the decades. Picnics, puppet shows, soccer games, wedding photos, badminton tournaments and tai chi, to name a few. 

Coming in late spring of 2018: Nine holes of mini-golf. 

Fernando Leon/NBC

Commercials, TV shows and movies can provide an economic boost — if they're shot in your city or state. 

In the fall of 2013, when Gone Girl filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it contributed nearly $8 million to the state's economy, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The production marked the last for Missouri's film production tax credit, which expired in November 2013.

courtesy: Hispanic Economic Development Corporation

The U.S. Department of Commerce is awarding $1.6 million to the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Greater Kansas City, or HEDC.

The grant, announced on Thursday, will be used to renovate an industrial building near 27th and Southwest Boulevard, at 2720 Jarboe, and turn it into a small business incubator. 

Pedro Zamora, the non-profit’s executive director, says minorities are sometimes left out of Kansas City's entrepreneurship community. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Lafayette County

A failed effort to build a new city-owned hospital is at the heart of financial problems in Lexington, Missouri. That's according to State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who presented findings of a citizen-requested audit on Thursday night at the Lexington City Hall. 

courtesy: Heart to Heart International

Puerto Rico is still digging out from Hurricane Maria.

The storm knocked out power, and fuel supplies are low. People are struggling to meet basic needs, such as access to food and water.

"We bring hope to people. We're going to help make those circumstances better," said Heart to Heart International chief operating officer Kim Carroll. "Puerto Rico will recover if we help it, and that's what we need to do." 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Art fairs don't seem like a place of fierce competition — but getting a booth at one can be.

More than 1,400 artists apply each year for the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City. Participants are selected by a jury, a group of curators, gallery owners and educators. This year, 240 artists got in, including about 40 from Kansas and Missouri.

Karen Almond / Dallas Opera

Young Friends of Art, a networking group for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been around for more than two decades. Then there are a few upstarts, like Kansas City Symphony's new Maestro KC, which "connects people to the music they love and the musicians who make it possible." 

courtesy: Kansas City Repertory Theatre

The musical Between the Lines has been in development for the past three years. This weekend marks its debut at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

The show is based on the bestselling book, co-written by Jodi Picoult and her (then teenage) daughter, Samantha van Leer. In the novel, a teenager, Delilah, gets a crush on a fairytale character, Prince Oliver — and the lines blur between fantasy and reality. 

Creative Commons-Flickr / Nikonian Novice

Startups create thousands of new jobs each year in the Kansas City area. That's according to a new report released Wednesday by KCSourceLink. A program of UMKC's Innovation Center, KCSourceLink provides a network for area entrepreneurs. 

"We're talking retail, we're talking restaurants, we're talking small manufacturers, we're talking tech companies," says special projects manager Kate Hodel. "All of those are important to our Kansas City metro area."

courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This Monday, August 21, the moon will cover the sun in a rare total solar eclipse across a 70-mile path of the United States.

The eclipse starts at 11:40 a.m. and reaches totality around 1:06 p.m. in parts of Kansas and Missouri. 

Photo courtesy of RBerteig via Flickr

Get ready for a traffic jam. 

Across the United States, millions of people plan to travel the highways and byways to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The moon will block the sun along a narrow band through 14 states — including Kansas and Missouri. The eclipse begins around 11:40 a.m., with totality just after 1 p.m.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Hickok Cole Architects

What do artists in the Kansas City metropolitan area want when it comes to space? What are the top creative space priorities? 

To find out, Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer, conducted a regional arts market study from October 2016 to January 2017. A total of 515 artists and 101 arts organizations or creative businesses responded to the online survey. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The future of the Kansas City International Airport has been talked about for years — in public hearings and forums, as well as meetings of the airport terminal advisory group, airport committee, and the Kansas City Council.

Thursday could mark a crucial turning point for what's expected to be a $1 billion project. 

Jeremy Enlow / Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has been described as the Olympics for pianists. It's a grueling process to even make the cut. 

This year, nearly 300 pianists applied, 146 were selected for live screening auditions, and 30 were invited to Fort Worth, Texas, in May. And then the competition gets underway: 17 days, with four elimination rounds, and millions of people watching around the world

Courtesy Mark Montgomery

For three decades, Kansas City singer/songwriter Mark Montgomery has played guitar, bass, and harmonica in blues and jazz bands — and he's also a beekeeper

Montgomery spoke with Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix about his latest album, the first on his own Love Honey label, called "Difficult Man."

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